Our troika of academy presidents
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a long and storied history benefiting from the contributions of many leaders drawn from our residency’s ranks. The AAO evolved from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology which was founded in 1896 primarily to provide continuing education to eye, ear, nose, and throat doctors.
In 1979, AAOO was divided into separate academies for each specialty and the American Academy of Ophthalmology was incorporated as an independent organization. Our own Barkan Society member Bruce Spivey served as Founding CEO of the organization from 1976 to 1993, and many Barkan Society members play active roles in committee assignments and have been honored for their contributions.
Susan Day, MD made history when she was inducted as the Academy’s first woman president in 2005. After completing her residency in 1979, she spent her fellowship with Mr. David Taylor at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London and additional strabismus education with Dr. William Scott and Dr. Marshall Parks.
She has served as President of the American Ophthalmological Society and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and Board Chair of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. She has also served as President, and CEO for ACGME International. She was awarded the Howe Medal by the AOS in 2016, and in 2018 she was awarded the Marshall Parks Medal by AAPOS.
Richard Abbott, MD became the next Barkan member elected President of the AAO in 2011. After completing his residency in 1977, he was a Heed cornea and external disease fellow at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. He served as co-Chief of Cornea at CPMC, as Chief from 1989 to 1995. He joined the UCSF faculty where is he currently the Emeritus Thomas W. Boyden Health Sciences Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Research Associate at the Francis .I Proctor Foundation.
He has served as President of both the Pan American Association of Ophthalmology and the Pan American Ophthalmological Foundation, as Chairman of the Board of the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) and Director of the American Board of Ophthalmology. He is a past Board Director for the International Council of Ophthalmology and a member of Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis. Dr. Abbott has received numerous honors, including the U.S. President’s 25-year Volunteer Service Award, The Sir Stuart Duke Elder International Gold Medal, the International Golden Service Award from the Chinese Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Jose Rizal Medal for International Service to the Asia Pacific region from the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology among many others.
Ruth D. Williams, MD was elected Academy President in 2012, the youngest physician and only the second woman to assume the post. It is notable that in 42 years since 1978 when the first president was elected, there have only been 4 women elected, and two have been Barkan Society members. Ruth Williams completed her residency in 1990 and glaucoma fellowships at UCSF University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and at Shaffer Associates in San Francisco. She is president of the Wheaton Eye Clinic near Chicago, one of the largest ophthalmology groups in the Midwest.
Active on many AAO committees she has also served as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Glaucoma Research Foundation since 2015 and as Chief Medical Editor of EyeNet Magazine since 2016. She also led the ophthalmology section council of the AMA for nearly a decade and has chaired the Surgical and Specialty Section of the AMA.